Military chiefs from the West African bloc ECOWAS will meet in Ghana on thursday and friday to discuss a road map for possible intervention in Niger. This comes after ECOWAS leaders approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger. Meanwhile, concerns are rising due to the worsening security situation in the country.
A statement from Niger’s defence ministry say at least 17 Nigerien soldiers have been killed in an attack by armed groups near the border with Mali,
According to the statement released late on Tuesday, “a detachment of the Nigerien Armed Forces (FAN) moving between Boni and Torodi was the victim of a terrorist ambush near the town of Koutougou [52km southwest of Torodi]”. The statement added that another 20 soldiers had been injured, with all of them evacuated to Niamey, the capital. More than 100 assailants were “neutralised” during their retreat, the army said. In the last decade, the borders between Mali, northern Burkina Faso and western Niger have become the hot spot for violence by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda, ISIL (ISIS) and other militant groups in the Sahel region.
Anger due to the inability of various governments to quell the insurgency advances has led to military take-overs in the area with the latest being Niger.The coup leaders had said that President Mohamed Bazoum’s ouster was due to the insecurity in the country was “due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”.
The coup in Niger has called into play Western powers with strategic interests in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin on tuesday spoke to Mali’s military leader Assimi Goita about the recent coup in neighbouring Niger. This is seen by security analysts as a call likely to cause concern among Western governments that fear growing Russian influence in West Africa’s Sahel region. Reports indicate that Putin “stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the situation for a more stable Sahel.The Kremlin said in a statement that the call was initiated by Mali Mali’s military leader Assimi Goita.
The statement said “The parties specifically focused on the current situation in the Sahara-Sahel region and emphasised, in particular, the importance of settling the situation in the Republic of Niger solely through peaceful political and diplomatic means.”
Niger has become a strategic location for the United States, China, Europe, and Russia due to its uranium and oil resources and its role as a hub for foreign forces fighting armed groups in the region.
Western powers and ECOWAS have called for the coup leaders to reinstate ousted President Bazoum, who they have detained since July 26, but the coup leaders have refused and rejected attempts at negotiation. ECOWAS military chiefs are expected to meet on Thursday and Friday in Ghana to discuss the roadmap for a possible invasion of Niger.
Security analysts argue that any military invasion could further destabilise the already volatile Sahel, where conflicts waged by groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have displaced millions over the past decade and fuelled a hunger crisis. Russian influence there has grown while the West’s is losing grounds. Military leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso have kicked out troops from former colonial power France and strengthened ties with Moscow. The military government in Mali has brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, who have been accused of executing civilians and committing other atrocities.